Humor is a great way to begin tough conversations — ones that might lead to healing and understanding identity. As Jews, we know this as well as anyone; just look at our long tradition of conspicuously Jewish comedians who joke about identity.
That is why, at first glance, the “Murray Hill” YouTube parody video seems like any other sort of Jewish comedy; it’s critical and hella funny. The video, which accompanies the acoustic-campy tune by one DJ Lubel, describes in detail the cultural milieu that is Murray Hill — a heavily Jewish, Long Island-infused Manhattan neighborhood that is popular with recent college grads.
At first, the lyrics seem to mention, rather innocuously, the Jewish summer camps so many Murray Hill residents went to — as well as the top-tier universities they attended, and bars they now frequent.
However, there was a point in the video when I stopped laughing: And that’s when DJ Lubel begins singing about the Murray Hill’s so-called JAPS — spoiled Jewish girls with low self-esteem, gold-digging ambitions, poor sexual health and consumerist obsessions. Not to mention serious eating disorders: “Girl, I know you want that real estate lawyer/But there’s no need for an eating disorder/Because tasti D lite for breakfast lunch and dinner is not healthy … You need more calories,” DJ Lubel raps.
And while Lubel talks about the avaricious-investment banker dude stereotype of Murray Hill, it was the portrayal of the Jewish women really hit home for me. Perhaps, that’s because many of the characterizations seem so accurate.
I had a similar gut-reaction to Kanye West’s “The New Workout Plan” song and video when it came out several years ago. Like DJ Lubel, Kanye speaks to a specific (female) population that wants to, “pull a rapper, a NBA player man, at least a dude wit’ a car,” and to do so, must get her “body right.” He raps: “Tuck your tummy tight and do your crunches like this… Give head, stop breathe, get up, check your weave.”
So I find myself moving between loving and hating these videos — between laughing at them and reproaching myself for doing so.
While they use humor to address issues of priorities that women should examine, is Kanye the person to do that in the case of the women portrayed in “The New Workout Plan”? And is DJ Lubel the person to expose many of Murray Hill’s Jewish women for what they are — even if it involves some creative hyperbole?